The perils of social media
It’s often said that any published author nowadays has two fulltime jobs – the job where you write stories, and the job where you sell them. Many of us have a third job too – one which does marvellous things like “keep the lights on in our houses” and “lets us eat something other than instant soup for dinner”.
Mmm. Pot noodle…
As time rolls on and publishing evolves, a great deal of responsibility seems to shifting to the author to publicise their own work. Back in the days of cocaine yacht parties and free-range sexual harassment in the workplace (who remembers the eighties?), all an author needed to do was write a book and turn up to the signing appearances. With the advent of the internet and the ability for readers to connect on a daily basis with the authors they read, there’s a growing pressure for authors to have an online presence. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Formspring, Blogs, Vlogs, Websites, MySpace (el oh el) – the list is seemingly endless.
Or is it?
I heard an excellent story about a fellow author who had a fairly frantic social media schedule – blogging and tweeting and vlogging and all of it. The load was so high, this author found themselves spending more time on their social media presence on their actual writing. After all this work, this author sold X books per week, X being a decent figure most folks would be happy with (if indeed you’re someone who draws happiness from such things) but the constant upkeep of all these SM engagements was wearing them thin.
So in a fit of “GAAAAAAHHHHH”, or the story goes, this author deleted their entire Social media presence in the space of ten minutes. Blog, Twitter, all. And when the smoke cleared, they realised they were still selling around X books per week, X being a decent figure most folks would be happy with (if indeed you’re someone who draws happiness from such things). Except now this author had a boat load more free time to write… books.
Here’s another story. I love Chuck Wendig. Dude is a stone cold cat. I follow him on Twitter and I often check out his latest “25 Things” list over at Terrible Minds – I shudder to think the amount of time he puts into his awesome blog, but it must be simply mind-bending. I find him funny, intelligent and insightful, and the few times we’ve chatted, he’s been a stand-up guy. And here’s the thing – I haven’t read his books. I’ve heard they’re very good. I see him in my feed every day. I like him as a writer and a person… in fact, hell with it, I’m going to go order BLACKBIRDS on Amazon right now…
… back. I owed him that…
BUT, point remains, after having spent all that time reading Sir Wendig’s blog and Twitter feed, I hadn’t actually been compelled to buy his stuff until I just now sat down and guilted myself into it.
I don’t claim these two anecdotes present any kind of evidence. I just find it interesting to speculate about. I’m not really sure anyone knows how effective a strong online presence is – although I’m almost certain having some presence is better than having none at all – but just because someone follows you on Twitter, doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your book. Just because someone marks it as To Be Read on Goodreads, doesn’t mean they’re actually going to pony up cash for it either. And sure, I’ve had folks tell me they really liked my blog or thought I was mildly amusing on Twitter and bought my book based on that, but how many people have come here and thought I sounded like an absolute prat, and fled my BUY IT NOW button with arms all aflail? It’s not like many of those folks will actually write and tell me my penchant for peepee jokes and profanity scared off a potential sale.
So what’s my point?
I suppose the key point for any writer to keep in mind is Return on Investment. And I don’t want to come off sounding like some a slightly ranty 6’7 accountant by breaking everything down into numbers and dollars, but the truth is we all have a certain amount of time in every day, and many of those are taken up by activities that all essentially sit under the “Stop yourself dying alone” column. The hours you have to actually spend on stuff you want to do are few, and precious. So if you ever find yourself blogging or tweeting when in fact you should be writing, if you ever feel that you MUST go and attend one of your social media engagements, if it starts feeling like a job – something you HAVE to do, rather than WANT to do – then maybe just… don’t?
I find blogging and tweeting and all that jazz a lot of fun, so here I am. The golden rule is that this gig should be fun. If you’re not having it, then stop doing it.
And if you stop, let us know if you’re still selling X copies per month. 😀